Need info on Church of Christ for a novel I'm writing!


#1

For those of you who recognize my handle from other forums, I am finally back from the NaNoWriMo underground–or, in a less dramatic fashion, November is over and my sojourn in the National Novel Writing Month 2004 wilderness has been almost successfully completed! I say almost because I finished the requisite 50,000 words for my novel, but I still have several thousand more to go and I need some help!

My protagonist is a young Catholic girl who, while attending a Catholic girls’ boarding school, meets a young man who happens to belong to the Church of Christ. Despite all good sense, they fall in love and, throughout the plot (please don’t ask me to reveal it!), she spends quite a bit of time defending the Catholic faith… and he (despite what I’ve read about CoC members in another thread) because he does care deeply for her, is actually willing to listen, though not necessarily agree.

I’ve reached a point where they have agreed to the following deal: each one must attend the other’s church services. Obviously, I know what a Catholic Mass is like, but can anyone fill me in on a typical (if there is one) Sunday CoC service? Any particular terms they use (an acquaintance, who happens to be CoC and is the model for my protagonist’s love interest, always words his invitations like, “I’d like to invite you to worship with us” rather than “Would you like to come to our services?” You get the idea.) What about Wednesday night Bible study? And how does the congregation react to visitors… in particular, Catholic visitors? Do they give a warm welcome, ambush their hapless visitor, pretend they don’t see him or her, what? And are there any particular beliefs they hold that would seem extremely bizarre to Catholics?

If anyone has information, I would appreciate your help. Either post in the forum or PM me if you prefer.

In anticipation of the obvious question–“why don’t you just ask your friend?”–I have some very good reasons. One, this is a very small town and our family is well-known as very staunch Catholics, and two, our family owns a Catholic bookstore and, since this is a small town, I don’t want to risk unfavorable PR just because I’m making inquiries for a book I’m writing.

Any questions or clarifications, you know where to find me!

BlueRose


#2

Not really knowing anything about you or where you live…would it be possible to attend a service at a CoC church in some other town? I mean obviously the best way to collect evidence regarding something like that is to experience it. Just a suggestion…


#3

Nope… the nearest town is 25 miles away (we live in the boonies!):smiley: That’s where the shop and our church and the CoC church is. We’d have to drive over 50 miles to get to the next size town that would have a CoC church (time constraints–work, school, sleep–prevent this option.

By the way, does tkd stand for tae kwon do? That’s how we happen to know the CoC friend…

Thanks!

BlueRose


#4

[quote=bluerose]Nope… the nearest town is 25 miles away (we live in the boonies!):smiley: That’s where the shop and our church and the CoC church is. We’d have to drive over 50 miles to get to the next size town that would have a CoC church (time constraints–work, school, sleep–prevent this option.

By the way, does tkd stand for tae kwon do? That’s how we happen to know the CoC friend…

Thanks!

BlueRose
[/quote]

Yeah, guess that makes it kinda hard doesn’t it. Sorry I can’t help.

Yes, tkd stands for taekwondo. That’s my “other job”! And I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it!!!


#5

At the risk of flying off on a totally unrelated tangent, nick, you and my husband would get along great!

He’s a 2nd Dan, and teaches at one of the two TKD schools in said “nearby” town. The young man I’m modeling my novel’s character on is a 3rd Dan (and he’s only 18!) and he and my husband are great friends, despite the 22-year age difference. Just as long as religion doesn’t enter the equation, you know?

BlueRose


#6

You might find what you want here:

grigaitis.net/books/truth.pdf


#7

[quote=bluerose]At the risk of flying off on a totally unrelated tangent, nick, you and my husband would get along great!

He’s a 2nd Dan, and teaches at one of the two TKD schools in said “nearby” town. The young man I’m modeling my novel’s character on is a 3rd Dan (and he’s only 18!) and he and my husband are great friends, despite the 22-year age difference. Just as long as religion doesn’t enter the equation, you know?

BlueRose
[/quote]

At the risk of continuing the tangent…I LOVE teaching!!! I am a 3rd degree and will be getting ready for 4th degree in the next 3 months. The shame is I took a 6 year break in the middle. Otherwise I’d be getting ready for 5th degree. Maybe you should write a book about a Catholic martial arts instructor!!! :smiley:


#8

[quote=dvalle27]You might find what you want here:

grigaitis.net/books/truth.pdf
[/quote]

That looks like some good stuff!


#9

In my life, I’ve attended 3 different flavors of the Church of Christ.

Disciples of Christ – attended for a year as an adult

Independent Church of Christ - birth to young teen years

Church of Christ (non-instrumental music) – visited occasionally

Services on Sunday followed about the same form. Opening greeting and song (of course, acapella song for the non-instrumental group). There would be prayer, announcements, more singing and a collection. After this would come the communion service, symbolic only, the verses about “this do in memory of me” and maybe the verse about examination of conscience and not taking unworthily (I always wondered when I heard this verse how a symbol could bring damnation to you, but, that is another post) would be read, a prayer and communion hymn sung. Communion is very small cracker-like bread and grape juice in tiny individual cups. These are passed down the rows in large metal trays. In some congregations, you consume it as you pass the tray – while in others, every one takes it and holds it in their hands until all have been served, then, they partake together. It is assumed that all Christians will partake, and if you do not, there would be a few discreet glances… it is a very reverent moment. At the front of the church would be a big “communion table” that would hold the trays and usually has “This Do In Remembrance of Me” carved on the front.

The sermon would be based in a scripture reading, usually New Testament, with some other reference verses. The Disciples group tended to be less “preachy” – more of how this scripture relates to our lives and can help us be better Christians, while the Independent group can get into more hard line preaching/teaching - some pretty hell-fire- and-damnation!

cont -d


#10

pt 2

At the end of each service, there would be an invitation (they do not usually use the term “altar call”). A prayer, a song like “Softly and Tenderly” or “Just As I Am”, and an invitation to come give your life to the Lord, re-dedicate your life or join that congregation. If someone came forward to become a Christian, they would most likely be baptized that same day. Most churches have a baptistery behind the pulpit; it will have a cross or a pretty painting behind it. Baptism is full emersion and the standard song was ”Now I Belong to Jesus”.

The people would be very friendly, and I would not expect any confrontation or recruitment during a service. Sunday School classes or other outside of service class groups is where things would get more confrontational.

A mid-week Bible study would take the same format, sans the Sunday communion service. In many places, it would be preceded or followed by a potluck dinner.

Some of the congregations today could even get a bit into Praise and Worship music…

For the indep group, there would be magazines called “The Christian Standard” in the lobby. They have a web site where you can read back issues on line…

Hope this helps!


#11

. Maybe you should write a book about a Catholic martial arts instructor!!! :smiley:

nick: Shhhhhh!:whistle:

dvalle: Thanx for the link! I’m sure I’ll be using it for a reference as I go along!

kage_ar: Thank you! I didn’t know there were different “types” of CoC. From what little I know about our friend’s church, I think they allow music (at least, our friend has commented on his mother losing her cool when they forget to take their guitar picks out of their pockets before she does the wash!)

Also, do they regularly spend “all day” in church on Sundays? All I know is, we could never plan any kind of get-together on Sunday because he and his family were in church all day. And do you know about a “first Friday” meal? And which “type” is most likely to be pro-choice, or rather, anti-contraceptive? He’s the oldest of nine kids, that’s why I ask!

Thanks again to all!

BlueRose


#12

I want 10% for an idea fee and 50% authorship rights. Don’t worry, your name can go first…:smiley:


#13

I want 10% for an idea fee and 50% authorship rights. Don’t worry, your name can go first…:smiley:

Thanks for the vote of confidence!:tiphat:

Uh, lessee… 10% plus 50% equals 60%… of nothing, so far. Yeah, that sounds fair!

BlueRose


#14

Well, there are so many different little sects that are CofC - it could be one of those. The all day Sunday thing, Sunday School at 9 AM, Sunday services at 10:30 - then a big family lunch - back to church for youth group at 5 PM and then Sunday Night is another service, that can take up all day!

The First Friday thing, that could be a local church event…

Today I remembered another group, the United Church of Christ (I think that they are VERY liberal).

Kelly


#15

[quote=bluerose] . . . My protagonist is a young Catholic girl who, while attending a Catholic girls’ boarding school, meets a young man who happens to belong to the Church of Christ. I’ve reached a point where they have agreed to the following deal: each one must attend the other’s church services . . . can anyone fill me in on a typical (if there is one) Sunday CoC service? Any particular terms they use (an acquaintance, who happens to be CoC and is the model for my protagonist’s love interest, always words his invitations like, “I’d like to invite you to worship with us” rather than “Would you like to come to our services?” You get the idea.) What about Wednesday night Bible study? And how does the congregation react to visitors… in particular, Catholic visitors? Do they give a warm welcome, ambush their hapless visitor, pretend they don’t see him or her, what? And are there any particular beliefs they hold that would seem extremely bizarre to Catholics?
[/quote]

This may take two posts to do you justice.

In the Church of Christ–as in most Baptist, Pentecostal, or other Evangelical denominations of any particular size–there is a good measure of difference in the educational level and general demeanor of the congregants. Some members–typically older ones, but with a sprinkling of ‘true believers’ among the youths and young adults–will be convinced that their denomination teaches the Gospel and conducts it’s worship exactly the way the Apostles did. You can evoke a measure of surprise simply by mentioning that first-century churches met in homes, not in church buildings. Or that they didn’t have pews. Nor took collections using specially-desingned collection plates. They won’t contradict you–but they will be momentarily jarred, as if struck by a new thought.

(By the way: they usually DO use such plates, rather than collection ‘bags’ suspended from sticks, as I have seen used in Catholic and Episcopalian churches. And the collection plate(s) are passed hand-to-hand among the congregants–don’t call them ‘parishioners’, because they don’t believe the congregation is a ‘parish’–it’s simply too Latin a term for them, I think). The point is that committed Church of Christers may show a shocking lack of any sense of history: they will be supremely American but they are not conscious that the way things are done in America are not the way ‘they have always been done’. And this despite the fact that they will sometimes be reminded from the pulpit of ‘brush arbor churches’ (churches which met under the shelter of trees for want of a building, in the early days of the denomination).

A-historicity displays itself in other ways. Many of the congregants will know absolutely NOTHING about the founders of the Church of Christ. They will have some vague knowledge about the Reformation and the major figures thereof. They will ‘know’ that Constantine ‘established’ the Catholic Church in 325 AD after seeing a vision and winning a battle. But what happened between the close of the canon of Scripture and 325 AD will be rather fuzzy: heresies started creeping in, the Christians were persecuted by the Romans, etcetera. But the details are vague. The assumption is that Constantine tried to ‘cut the Gordian Knot’ when he ‘established’ the Catholic Church by creating a church where heresies such as Mariolotry and works-salvation co-existed side-by-side with 'true Christianity. The slow rise of the Papacy from that point forward–and the assumption that most of the Popes were terribly venal or dastardly–led to at least some of the ‘heresies’ becoming the ‘official doctrine’ of Rome, and the Christians falling prey to the Inquistion.


#16

Anyhow–I’ve only just touched on the topic!!! not all CofC members are hardshell committed to the denominational distinctives–these days only about 20% would be (unless you’re assuming your character attends a very tiny breakaway congregation, where the hardshell members would dominate). Any congregation above about 50 adult members would have a lot of people who attend for reasons of personal choice: the building is close, the congregation offers them specific ways to ‘serve’ (as music director, for instance, as youth director, sports coach, Sunday School teacher, Vacation Bible School teacher, church bus driver–usually there are loads of opportunities to help out. And all or nearly all of these are ‘unpaid’ opportunities, done out of love for Christ and not for any sort of remuneration). Some folks come because of friendship–or because of marriage: very common for a spouse to be a lapsed Lutheran, Methodist, Anglican, or Catholic and married to a committed CofC member who drags them along as often as possible.

The senior pastor–he will be ‘pastor’ in nearly every case and NEVER ‘Reverend’ as “only God is Reverend”–will likely be well into his forties. If he is above his mid-fifties he is likely to be a graduate of a two or four year denominational Bible college. He will be VERY oriented towards the denomination in such a case. He will be rather proud of his plain-spokenness, and he will be an excellent speaker: the ability to actually preach is highly valued in Protestant churches. His sermons will be peppered with scriptural references and the expectation will be that the congregants have their own Bibles and follow along as he quotes at least his major texts. In many cases he will have memorized literally thousands of individual verses.Such a pastor may openly brag that he is a ‘fundamentalist’ and decry the modern perception that this is an epithet. Such a pastor might not resist the temptation to do a bit of ‘Catholic baiting’ if he knows a Roman Catholic is visiting.

If the senior pastor is relatively young, he will be better educated (usually a four year bachelor’s degree in philosophy or theology, plus two years of denominational theological training. This will be true of any ‘associate pastors’ as well–one must usually serve four to six years in associate pastorates before one can expect to be ‘called’ by a congregation. He will be cosmopolitan and urbane and just a little sensitive about being considered an ‘Elmer Gantry’ or likened to a ‘Jimmy Swaggart’. He will be openly conservative and perhaps a bit more prone to express Republican political views. He will consciously avoid any such thing as ‘Catholic baiting’ --or will soften it by also throwing in snubs directed towards Mormons, Baptists, the ‘Left Behind’ books (CofC is a-millenial and despise the pre-millenialism and pre-tribulationalism of the ‘Left Behind’ books), and towards the Boston Church of Christ Movement (a breakaway ‘youth movement’ of the 1970’s which has permitted outright heresy as well as abusive behavior,and which has been condemned by the mainstream CofC).


#17

The Church of Christ is originally part of the ‘Restorationist Movement’ of the late 18th century: these were people who believe that Christian unity could be restored by ‘restoring’ the Church to it’s New Testament simplicity. Leading lights in the movment were Barton Stone and Thomas and Alexander Campbell. During the 19th century, splits occurred first because of the animosities of slavery and the Civil War, and later because of the rise of modernism. (Many of the sociological and historical factors leading to the splits are terra incognita for most CofC’ers, as noted earlier: but members of each wing will be pretty clear about how their practices and beliefs are different from those of the other ‘Resorationists’)

Today the ‘liberal’ wing of Restorationism is the Disciples of Christ denomination. The ‘moderates’ are usually called simply “Christan Church” as in “First Christian Church of Elm Street”, etcetera. The Churches of Christ were the most stalwart or reactionary, depending upon your point of view. Most congregations which call themselves ‘Church of Christ’ are non-instrumental. There are exceptions. Congregations which predate the divisions of the 19th Century may have originally called themselves 'Church of Christ and never changed. (By the same token there are non-instrumental churches which use the name ‘Disciples of Christ’ or ‘Christian Church’).

It is not quite accurate to say that the Latter-Day Saint Church is part of the Restorationist movement, though Mormonism was influenced by Restorationism and drew at least some of it’s early membership from the popularity of Restorationism. Mormons are considered ‘cultists’ and non-Christians, and Restorationists would be insulted to be linked to them. Bear in mind this oddity: Restorationism was originally an attempt at Protestant ecumenism. It has since become not just one but three separate denominations–all of which virulently DENY BEING A DENOMINATION!!!

Worship is rather similar in all wings of the Restorationists, except that the Churches of Christ will not use instruments but only congregational singing. People enter the sanctuary in reasonable reverence, but do not genuflect and may visit quietly until one of the elders of the church approaches the podium. The service begins with a prayer, followed by a song service of three to six hymns (depending upon how much emphasis gets placed upon hymnody by the individual congregation). Sing will be vigourous and heartfelt, the hymns will be stirring and beautiful.

After the song service, the tithing plate is passed, perhaps prefaced by the reading of an appropriate Scripture. (Often nowadays, guests are specifically invited NOT to contribute anything, as the support of the church is up to the congregants, and because the congregation want the visitors to know they are appreciated and loved just for being there and not for their money. This is a nod towards ‘seeker sensitivity’, an effort to make newcomers feel welcome). Guests may also be invited to introduce themselves at this point–though this is becoming out-of-vogue, as it makes some people uncomfortable. Instead, they may be invited to remain after the service for coffee and sweets.


#18

After receiving the offerings your Catholic protagonist is going to confront the biggest crisis of the service: the communion service. In all branches of the Restorationist movement of which I am aware, ‘open communion’ is practiced every Sunday. A high emphasis is placed upon communion among the Restorationists, though they believe the service is symbolic (no doctrine of transubstantiation). Your Catholic WILL NOT be able to receive communion, and this is at best a profession upon her part that she is not a Christian. At WORST it is a claim that the rest of the congregation is not Christian. There is serious grist here for a novelist. If the young lady is known to be a Catholic, the pastor and many of the congregants will discreetly observe her passing up the bread and wine (usually the ‘wine’ is grape juice btw). The pastor may or may not know the reason she abstains but he will preach directly to her once he knows she does not readily receive communion. Congregants will make a point–if she remains after the service–of obliquely (or not so obliquely) spelling out the terms of salvation, passing her tracts, letting her know she’s being ‘prayed for’ and such. Remember: in Protestant churches, one is seldom anonymous.

The sermon will follow, and it will in most cases be spectacular. Catholic priests aren’t taught how to preach. Most of them seem not to have been taught how to speak in public, period. (Priests have other things on their minds, such as liturgical proprieties. And not saying things which exceed the limits of the evidence and of logic: Protestant minister, especially Evangelical ones, often mistake bombast and volume for sound reasoning). Sermons usually conclude with an explanation of how to make a profession of faith in Christ, and an impassioned ‘invitation’. The compulsion to ‘come forward’ is remarkably strong, even if the sermon was exciting but unconvincing.

Maybe it’s the view of the baptistry: Restorationists baptise their converts on-the-spot and have garments stashed away for just such a purpose. (Years ago, a company which made such garments switched to a more-modern, cheaper but heavier-looking fabric–which unfortunately became transparent when wet. Needless to say, these garments were discreetly recalled). CofC baptistries will usually be in the back of the church, covered by curtains until the ‘invitation’. At that point one will observe what is usually a beautifully-painted mural of Eden or of Heaven or some similar theme, surrounding what for all intents is a two-person swimming pool, about four feet deep and perhaps six feet long by five feet wide.Baptism is of course by immersion and the CofC is especially reluctant to accept infant baptism or any form of baptism except immersion.

I should note the architecture typical of CofC churches. Please note that some churches are quite old–as much as a hundred year or more old–while others are simply made-to-order steel frame church buildings less than 10 or twenty years old. Oldr churches may be quite ornate, but there will be no statues or icons. Walls will tend to be painted a neutral color, with nature paintings or paintings of Biblical scenes hung appropriately. One usually enters via a foyer and is greeted by deacons, elders, or simply by ‘greeters’. Guests will be invited to sign a guest book and will be assisted to find a seat. The auditorium or sanctuary–depending upon the taste of the congregation it may be called one or the other–will be laid out with the pulpit on a raised platform, the baptistry behind and concealed by curtains, and the communion table beneath the pulpit. Pews have no kneelers, and congregations seldom kneel even for communion or during the weekly prayer services.


#19

Nowadays there are often two or more worship services for adults, with at least one ‘children’s service’, usually after Sunday School, which happens at the same time as the adult service. Often, the early-morming service is ‘contemporary’, using non-traditional hymns and otherwise geared to a college-age/young adult congregation. The later service is usually traditional. It is also the service most likely to be attended by guests–in large churches, the Assistant Pastor will preach the early-morning service, the Senior Pastor will have the traditional service, at least as a rule.

Sunday School is basically just a series of classes, broken down by ages and some cases by life-status. (Often there is a Sunday School class for widowed and divorced people, one for ‘young singles’, as well as classes for various grade levels of schoolchildren, a class for ‘young marrieds’ , for ‘mature adults’ etcetera). Everything depends upon how large the congregation, the ‘special needs’ of that congregation, and how much room is there. Methinks that if your Catholic went to Sunday School, she’d either be in a ‘Seekers’ class or a class for young singles.

Sunday Evening services are often in some ways a mirror of the AM service, except that there is often time devoted to receiving announcements of ‘prayer requests’. Folks will request prayer for themselves or make the congregation aware of on-going prayer needs for others. (If someone was just rushed to the hospital that week, this is likely to be in the church bulletin or announced in regular services. If someone is in long-term care, these sorts of needs are usually reserved for the evening service). Sermons are usually quieter and more focused upon teaching–evening services are usually attended only by regular members, rarely by guests. Communion will be available for those who missed the morning worship, but will not be shared by the whole congregation.

Wednesday services (or Tuesday or Thursday services, in some places), are usually adult teaching sessions. In addition to worship services, by the way, there are a variety of other activities going on in a typical CofC church: after-school/before school programs, sports activities, scouting, small-group bible studies, ministries to the poor or those in prison, evangelism/outreach efforts, etcetera. The Pastor(s) tend to serve as administrators and facilitators of such activities, alongside the elders. Unlike a Roman Catholic Church, they will seldom be directly involved in most of them.

And I thought I could say all of this in two posts!!! lol! Any questions?


#20

Hello Blue Rose. I used to attend a couple during the time i had strayed from the Roman Church.

They claim to be traced back to Jesus, and consider themselves “restorationists,” that is, that their denomonation alone practices true New Testament (or New Covenant) Christianity.

Unlike most other Protestant groups, they consider water baptism essential to salvation, and immerse only. Infant baptism is not accepted. Those baptized elsewhere must be re-baptized as they don’t consider the baptism of most other denominations to be valid. Some practice an open communion, others only invite members of their congregation or those who have been baptized. Musical instruments are not used in worship. Music during services and gatherings is sung a cappella. Some do not have ordained ministers. Many even refuse the titles Reverend or Pastor.

Most are very committed people, devoted to serving God in Christ as they understand Him. I do not have one negative thing to say about their dedication and the sincerity of their faith.

Presently, there is a bit of a divide among them. Some are part of what is known as the “community church” movement. They don’t like the title “Church of Christ,” and prefer to be called only
"christians" or “believers.” The “community church” movement is a liberal trend similar to the Purpose-Driven or Willow Creek movements within evangelical Protestantism. It is a rather watered down mixture of generic evangelical Baptist-type worship with peculiar Church of Christ elements, like weekly celebration of “the Lord’s table” mixed in. The COC leader at one of the churches I had attended believed in the “real presence” of Christ, not in the Catholic transubstantiation way via apostolic authority, but that Christ was really present in the elements because of the faith of those gathered.

Services usually begin with a cappella singing. Then there is greeting (and in some cases hugging). After, there is the celebration of the Lord’s table. Then the leader, or a male leader, gives a reflection. Usually this is based on a Biblical passage or two, but sometimes on a theme. In the “community church” movement, this is usually some sort of helpful advice with a few scripture passages here and there. After, people come together for prayer, and closing.

The church is popular in Tennessee and some southern states like Texas and Alabama, but is also found throughout the United States and the world. It is not the same as the International Church of Christ, through the two are similar in many ways. These days, the ICOC is a bit less centrally organized, and there has been some dialogue between these two groups which share a similar “restorationist” tradition.

I hope this helps.
:slight_smile:


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